When Jordan first heard about the circles, he guessed a much bigger fish would have made them. The fact that such a small animal makes such a large formation is "pretty cool, and suggests some underlying biological reason for the size, like poor visibility at depth, or distance between individuals that means males have to make large nests to be found by females," he told LiveScience.
Research describing the pufferfish formations was published in July in the journal Scientific Reports. "It's a nice clean study because it provides a definite answer to the question — something that is very rare in biology," Jordan said.
The formations are very similar to so-called "bowers" — display sites built by various animals like bowerbirds in which to strut their stuff before mating. In this case, the formations may serve solely to gather fine sediments, which females could use to choose their mate, Jordan said.
But until this idea is tested, nobody will know. "The one caveat I have is that there is no evidence that females care about anything more than the fine sand, and even that's a stretch," Jordan said. "The beautiful lines and structure could serve only to channel those particles to the center, and have no aesthetic purpose."
Although Jordan said he doesn't think that's the case, the idea that the fine sediments are important to females would be "biologically interesting, because it would suggest that function is more important than appearance," he said.
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